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The Monkey's Wedding: and Other Stories

The Monkey's Wedding: and Other Stories

by Joan Aiken

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Praise for Joan Aiken:

"Joan Aiken's invention seemed inexhaustible, her high spirits a blessing, her sheer storytelling zest a phenomenon. She was a literary treasure, and her books will continue to delight for many years to come."—Philip Pullman

"Aiken writes with the genius of a born storyteller, with mother wit expanded and embellished by


Praise for Joan Aiken:

"Joan Aiken's invention seemed inexhaustible, her high spirits a blessing, her sheer storytelling zest a phenomenon. She was a literary treasure, and her books will continue to delight for many years to come."—Philip Pullman

"Aiken writes with the genius of a born storyteller, with mother wit expanded and embellished by civilized learning, and with the brilliance of an avenging angel."—The New Yorker

Joan Aiken's stories captivated readers for fifty years. They're funny, smart, gentle, and occasionally very, very scary. The stories in The Monkey's Wedding are collected here for the very first time and include six never before published, as well as two previously published under the pseudonym Nicholas Dee. Here you'll find the story of a village for sale . . . or is the village itself the story? There's an English vicar who declares on his deathbed that he might have lived an entirely different life. After his death, a large, black, argumentative cat makes an appearance. . . . This hugely imaginative collection includes introductions by Aiken as well as by her daughter, Lizza Aiken.

Best known for The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken (1924-2004) wrote over a hundred books and won the Guardian and Edgar Allan Poe awards. After her first husband's death, she supported her family by copyediting at Argosy magazine and an advertising agency before turning to fiction. She went on to write for Vogue, Good Housekeeping, Vanity Fair, Argosy, Women's Own, and many others. Visit her online at: www.joanaiken.com.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Focusing largely on prolific British fictionist Aiken's early works from the late 1950s and early 1960s, this imaginative posthumous collection includes among others six never before published short stories and two originally published under a pseudonym. "Honeymaroon" chronicles the adventures of a castaway typist who lands on an island inhabited by sentient mice; "Girl in a Whirl" features a motorcycle-riding, man-hating, daredevil albinoess; "Octopi in the Sky" follows a man haunted by images of cephalopods; and in "A Mermaid Too Many," a sailor's exotic present for his lover–a mermaid in a bottle–has unforeseen consequences. The charm and unrestrained quality of Aiken's early stories are put into stark perspective by an essay from her daughter Lizza, who offers up glimpses into a particularly difficult period in her mother's life: Shortly after the end of WWII, widowed and homeless with two young children, Aiken made the bold decision to support herself and her family by writing. Wildly inventive, darkly lyrical, and always surprising, this collection–like the mermaid in a bottle–is a literary treasure that should be cherished by fantastical fiction fans of all ages. (Apr.)
From the Publisher

"Brisk, matter-of-fact accounts of annoying mermaids, hospitable devils, unionizing mice and robot prototypes that make flipping light switches an act of menace. And the women range from self-willed wives to beautiful stunt motorcyclists to knitting spinsters. Sometimes they conform to the stereotypes of the times they were created in, but [Joan] Aiken is full of surprises: Her plots and characters continually wander off the beaten track, leaving far behind what fantasist Lord Dunsany called 'the fields we know.'"—The Seattle Times
Library Journal
Best known for The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Aiken (1924–2004) was a prolific writer for 50 years, working as a copyeditor before turning her hand to fiction. The short stories in this collection include six never before published and two published under a pseudonym. These tales are vignettes of ordinary people trying to cope with extraordinary situations. A sailor brings a mermaid home in a bottle and has to figure out how to get rid of it when his wife refuses to keep it indoors. A man meets the devil and almost marries his daughter. A beloved village vicar is reincarnated as a wicked tomcat. Each story has a surprise or twist. Many are ironic, go-figure pieces. They are just like real life, only more so. VERDICT This book will appeal to readers of short stories and literary fiction. Highly recommended.—Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Libs., Kingston-Providence-Narragansett
Kirkus Reviews

Darkly whimsical stories, most of them from the 1950s and six of them previously unpublished, by the late author best known for the fanciful Wolves of Willoughby Chase series and Jane Austen sequels.

Aiken, who died in 2004, was a kind of modern folklorist whose stories (many of which were featured inArgosy)include a repressed English vicar reincarnated as a brazen cat, a mini-mermaid no one wants except the seaman who found her (but can't keep her), a forlorn 4-year-old boy summoned from the past by the sound of music, an ad writer haunted by octopuses and the chain-smoking devil himself. Then there's Midsummer Village, which is targeted by a millionaire developer blind to its legendary beauty, which is so great that it exists for only three days a year. Even in her more realistic stories, there's a sense of people getting pulled by unexplained or unseen forces, most affectingly in "The Monkey's Wedding," in which an elderly artist goes to reclaim his celebrated painting of a German-occupied Eastern European town, 50 years after the work fell into Nazi hands, and his crusty aged mother who discovers the grandson she never knew she had. Whatever the outcome of these tales, however deep the themes, Aiken writes with surpassing spirit and alertness, never ceasing to find interest or amazement in the traps people set for themselves. Some of the stories are slight, but Aiken's elegant restraint and dry wit never fail to leave their mark.

Stylistically, these stories are very much from another era (two of them were originally published under the pseudonym Nicholas Dee), but the moral insights in them are timeless.

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Small Beer Press
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